Letterboxd scavenger hunt for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City

2 June 2023

The Australian premiere of the latest Wes Anderson feature, Asteroid City, takes place in less than a week on Thursday 8 June 2023, at the 2023 Sydney Film Festival.

If you need a little something to keep you occupied between now and then though, help contain the excitement and all, film social network Letterboxd is running the Asteroid City Scavenger Hunt for the next two weeks:

Every day for the next fourteen days, a new item will be hidden on Letterboxd somewhere in the extended Wes Anderson universe of films and their creators. We’ll drop daily clues on our social media, and once you have collected all fourteen items, you’re automatically in the draw to win the grand prize: a private screening of Asteroid City for you and your friends at your nearest cinema.

Letterboxd, in case you’ve not heard of it, was established in New Zealand in 2011, by Matthew Buchanan, and Karl von Randow, and I’ve been a member since 2012. If you’re looking for a place to discuss film, and film only, Letterboxd is where you need to be.

And here’s something, the screenplay for Asteroid City is available to buy in hardback book, or Kindle format, from Amazon on Tuesday 22 August 2023. I didn’t know that was a thing.

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The 2023 Australian Book Design Awards (ABDA) winners

31 May 2023

Book cover of Son of Sin by Omar Sakr, designed by Amy Daoud

The Australian Book Design Awards (ABDA) not only judge books by their covers, they celebrate them, and last week the winners of the 2023 awards were announced. Son of Sin written by Omar Sakr, pictured above, won the Best Designed Literary Fiction/Poetry Cover award, with a cover created by Sydney based book designer Amy Daoud.

In other categories, Zeno Sworder, who both wrote, and designed the cover for My Strange Shrinking Parents, won the ABDA Cover of the Year prize, while ABDA’s Book of the Year award went to QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection, with a cover by Dirk Hiscock and Karina Soraya, who both work at the National Gallery of Victoria.

All of the winning covers can be seen on ABDA’s Instagram page.

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ooh.directory a blogroll and web directory in the TikTok age

31 May 2023

My thanks to Phil Gyford for listing disassociated in his web directory ooh.directory. In the early days of the web, before search engines were a thing, website owners often sought to be added to web directories, as promotional opportunities were otherwise limited.

These website lists, or catalogues, were usually broken down by category or subject, so if, say, you were seeking websites focussed on literature, the books or literature page was the place to go. I used to while away many an hour perusing web directories. Site descriptions were often concise, to say the least, and on occasion there was no telling where a link might lead. There was a certain spontaneity that came with directories and blogrolls, something perhaps lacking in today’s web.

ooh.directory is also a blogroll. Once upon a time bloggers used to list their favourite websites and blogs, usually in a sidebar of their blog. Blogrolls were preceded by link pages, which served a similar purpose. They’re not seen so often today, as their use became frowned upon by the search engines. There was a concern some websites included on blogrolls and link pages might have been paid placements, potentially giving the listed blog an unsanctioned leg up in search rankings.

Web directories and blogrolls have been making something of a comeback recently. And in a world chock full of distractions, their return couldn’t be more timely. Elegant tools for a more civilised web. In addition to ooh.directory, there’s also the excellent feedle, the actual Blogroll, and FeedLand.

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Blog publishing application WordPress has turned twenty

29 May 2023

When I re-launched disassociated as a blog in 2007, being one of many reboots this website has been subject to since 1997, I migrated to blog publishing application WordPress (WP). Prior to that, all pages here were laboriously hand coded. Hand coding was a hangover from my web design days, and my distaste for WYSIWYG website editors. My beef, at the time, with many of these webpage builders was the way they worked. Best practice, and standards, were an alien concept to them, to say nothing of the extraneous code they generated.

One, that shall remain nameless, created rollover code for text hyperlinks using JavaScript. JavaScript. This despite the web being well into the age of CSS generated rollover code by that stage. Come 2007 though, apps like WP were the way to go. Other bloggers I was speaking to then told me WP, or similar such CMSs, would save a bundle of time, and allow me to go about my disassociated way. I’m sure glad I listened to them. “WP is working for me, even while I sleep,” one counterpart said.

I was sold. By that stage WP had been around for about four years, but was still regarded as being relatively new. It was enough to make me feel as if I were some sort of (sort of) pioneer. But WP frustrated the hell out of some people. Many felt WP’s core capabilities were lacking, necessitating an over dependence on plugins — small apps that add, or extend to, WP’s functionality — to bring about the website, or blog, they desired. Ben Barden, a developer and blogger, once created his own CMS, back in the day, named Injader, for this reason.

But I’ve always strived to keep the backend as simple as the front. My use of plugins is as minimal as the interface design. All I want to do is write and post content. But here we are in 2023. disassociated, still styled (mostly) with a lowercase d, which first came into being in 1997 (not as a blog, the term was yet to be coined), is, despite stops and starts, still publishing. And this week WP is twenty years old. So, happy birthday WordPress, and thanks for being here. I’m looking forward to your thirtieth, which will really be something if disassociated is still doing its thing.

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The rise of experimental, strange Australian literature and fiction

29 May 2023

There’s a lot to like about smaller, independent, book publishers. The first has to be the quality of the stories they’ve been bringing to bookshelves in recent years. This is borne out by the increasing presence of indie published titles in the long and short lists of Australian literary awards such as the Stella, and the Miles Franklin.

The second is the “risk” smaller publishers — many of whom are members of the Small Network Press — will take on a book with a storyline that might be regarded as fringe, something perhaps their mainstream counterparts are reluctant to do.

Nina Culley, writing for Kill Your Darlings, says the publication of titles including Grimmish by Michael Winkler, Every Version of You by Grace Chan, and Dropbear, a collection of poetry by Evelyn Araluen, is signalling a move away from “realist” stories, towards writing more on the experimental and strange side.

Small presses, literary magazines, anthologies and poetry collections have long since encouraged outlandish stories, experimentation and play, and we are now seeing more smaller publishing houses doing the same. Publishers like Spineless Wonders, SubbedIn, UQP, Transit Lounge and Giramondo are revolutionising Australia’s literary output by responding to an expanding readership that craves literary disobedience.

I’m intrigued by what is regarded as “literary disobedience” though (much as I like the term). For instance I finished reading Every Version of You last week, and despite the novel being described as a work of speculative literary fiction, the entire premise really seemed all too plausible. But maybe I need to stop consuming as much science fiction and fantasy as I do.

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Influencer, a film by Kurtis David Harder with Cassandra Naud

27 May 2023

Still from Influencer, a film by Kurtis David Harder

Being a social media influencer isn’t all sunshine and double shot half decaf blonde espresso cappuccinos with caramel drizzle. There’s a dark, and dangerous, side to this occupation. That you should have learned after seeing Sissy, a horror/thriller made in early 2022 by Australian filmmakers Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes.

Influencer, trailer, by Canadian filmmaker Kurtis David Harder, also a horror/thriller, set in Thailand, sees a young, worldly, traveller CW (Cassandra Naud) prey on social media influencers who venture into the region. One of her targets is Madison (Emily Tennant), who spruiks skincare products. Although her socials suggest otherwise, Madison isn’t quite enjoying Thailand as much as she hoped.

Madison’s vulnerability makes her the perfect target for CW, and before long the new friends are taking a boat trip to the obligatory secluded island. One can only imagine what happens next. I can’t find any information about a cinematic release in Australia for Influencer, but you may be able to stream the film on Shudder.

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Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp wins 2023 Dublin Literary Award

26 May 2023

German author Katja Oskamp has won the 2023 Dublin Literary Award with her 2019 book Marzahn, Mon Amour. The Dublin Literary Award is an international literary award that has been recognising excellence in global literature since 1994. Books written in, or translated into, English are eligible, but must be nominated by one of the award’s participating libraries.

After Story by Larissa Behrendt, Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down, and Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, were some of the Australian authors to be longlisted for this year’s award.

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2023 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) winners

25 May 2023

Horse, by United States based Australian author Geraldine Brooks, has been named winner of the 2023 Literary Fiction Book of the Year, at the ABIA awards this evening. Horse is a story that spans centuries, and explores the connection unrelated people share in a race horse:

Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South, even as the nation reels towards war. An itinerant young artist who makes his name from paintings of the horse takes up arms for the Union and reconnects with the stallion and his groom on a perilous night far from the glamour of any racetrack.

New York City, 1954. Martha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance.

Washington, DC, 2019. Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly connected through their shared interest in the horse — one studying the stallion’s bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success.

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor won the General Fiction Book of the Year category, while Wake by Shelley Burr won the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year.

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Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov wins International Booker Prize

24 May 2023

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, book cover

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, book cover.

Georgi Gospodinov, described as the most translated and internationally awarded Bulgarian writer after 1989, has won the 2023 International Booker Prize, for his 2022 novel Time Shelter.

Translated by American literary translator Angela Rodel, Gospodinov’s fourth book features a curious medical facility that assists Alzheimer’s patients, by masquerading as a time machine:

In Time Shelter, an enigmatic flâneur named Gaustine opens a ‘clinic for the past’ that offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time.

As Gaustine’s assistant, the unnamed narrator is tasked with collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the past, from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to scents and even afternoon light. But as the rooms become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek out the clinic as a ‘time shelter’, hoping to escape from the horrors of our present — a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present.

The winning author and translator each receive half of the £50,000 prize money on offer. If there had been an award for best book cover of the International Booker Prize shortlist, I would have adjudged Time Shelter the winner at the time I wrote about the shortlist.

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Debra Dank wins NSW Premier Literary Award Book of the Year

22 May 2023

We Come With This Place, written by Gudanji and Wakaja woman Debra Dank, was named Book of the Year in the 2023 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards this evening in Sydney.

We Come with This Place is a remarkable book, as rich, varied and surprising as the vast landscape in which it is set. Debra Dank has created an extraordinary mosaic of vivid episodes that move about in time and place to tell an unforgettable story of country and people.

Dank calibrates human emotions with honesty and insight, and there is plenty of dry, down-to-earth humour. You can feel and smell and see the puffs of dust under moving feet, the ever-present burning heat, the bright exuberance of a night-time campfire, the emerald flash of a flock of budgerigars, the journeying wind, the harshness of a station shanty, the welcome scent of fresh water.

We Come with This Place is deeply personal, a profound tribute to family and the Gudanji Country to which Debra Dank belongs, but it is much more than that. Here is Australia as it has been for countless generations, land and people in effortless balance, and Australia as it became, but also Australia as it could and should be.

Dank’s 2022 debut title also won the Indigenous Writers’ Prize, the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction, and the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing.

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